AbstractsPhilosophy & Theology

The embodiment of sublimity: discourses between visual, literary and philosophical conceptions of sentience in the drawings of Henry Fuseli, 1770-78

by Alan Edward Boulton

Institution: University of Birmingham
Department: Department of Art History, Film and Visual Studies
Year: 2015
Keywords: NC Drawing Design Illustration
Record ID: 1406042
Full text PDF: http://etheses.bham.ac.uk/5555/


This thesis provides a thematically-based interpretation of Henry Fuseli’s art-making focusing on his drawings of the 1770s - a period that is shown to be his most important phase of artistic development. Throughout the thesis I indicate how the characteristics of these drawings can be attributed to Fuseli’s attempts to establish visual dialogues with particular theoretical perspectives, and I show how he used drawing to analyse and challenge dominant art practice’s functions and attendant discourses. My close visual analyses of Fuseli’s drawings note these images’ relationships to his later artwork by demonstrating the underlying coherence and motivations of his creative methods. Moreover, the thesis shows how Fuseli’s art practice of the 1770s provided conceptual foundations for his later Lectures on Painting. The thesis’s four chapters examine Fuseli’s understanding of artistic invention; his challenging of conventional artistic subject matters, modes of representation and their purposes; his understanding of the sublime and its use as an artistic device; and his comprehension and practice of artistic imitation. In conclusion, the thesis proposes that Fuseli crafted his drawings to encourage their viewers to have profound, disquieting, imaginative experiences, which motivated them to challenge their self-perceptions and that which was conventionally determined as sentient existence.